“Money laundering is an issue of great importance to the citizens of British Columbia. It is a crime that strikes at the heart of our collective values and corrupts the fabric of a free and democratic society.”
So says Austin Cullen of the eponymous Cullen Commission investigating money-laundering in British Columbia. He is perplexed at the failure of the B.C. Lottery Corporation and the implicated casinos to report the huge cash transactions by a major high roller in the province.
A big red flag
It was surely a red flag from the get go yet went on for some time, but the federal government in Ottawa shirked its obligation and in fact obstructed access to records. Of note, Ottawa controls RCMP, Fintrac, Canada Revenue Agency, and the federal prosecution service. It looks pretty serious.
The on-going inquiry will resume in 2021, but so far it has been very revealing. Cullen has written that one area of particular concern involves Canada’s compliance with its obligation to identify the nature and character of documents in its possession or control.
“Many federal agencies have been slow to comply with these obligations,
and the lists that have been produced often appear to be incomplete.”
Fintrac holding back
He singled out Fintrac, the intelligence agency on anti-money laundering, controlled by the federal finance ministry.
Fintrac initially made massive amounts of material available on its website, claiming it was a complete list. Apparently it is not so.
A concern for Cullen is that Ottawa have been culling documents to the point that they provide no meaningful information.
Another problem is that the inquiry has also not been allowed to interview federal prosecutors. It is an oversight given that B.C. Attorney General David Eby said he was “incredibly concerned” about Fintrac’s reported reticence to cooperate.
“I simply cannot understand why the federal government’s anti-money
laundering agency that has a mandate to prevent (money laundering) is not
falling over itself to provide information to the anti-money laundering inquiry.”
Fintrac plays a key role in any issue of money laundering, being responsible for connecting the dots between criminal organizations. In this same vein, senior B.C. officials turned a blind eye to organized crime laundering massive amounts of suspected drug cash since money pouring into casinos through loan sharks was obviously needed revenue.
Apparently, several B.C. government employees allowed the so-called VIP high-rollers to “bend” Fintrac’s laws to prevent offending these high-value customers.
The commission knows that a good many of these VIPs were Chinese nationals with cash provided by loan sharks. Here is how the cycle works. These loans were repaid in China to organized crime.